Marsilio Ficino's Book of Life arrived today.
The Book of Life was a surprise . . .
I'm exchanging journals with Kate from Wyoming. You remember the Moleskine Project I talked about in "The Unknown Aspect of Human Creativity" . . .
She included a translation of the underground classic from 1480.
I thought of Lin Yutang and The Importance of Living . . . . a book that is very important to me.
Ficino talks about the Muses, Mercury, Apollo, and Venus as if they were real people. The language is infused with metaphors the author seems to take literally.
The Book of Life is a book of advice, of counsel, on healthy living. Ficino sees himself as a physician of the soul. He writes, "I have done the healing medicine of souls for a long time now . . ."
Here is a curious passage:
How diligently one must take care of the brain, the heart, the stomach, and the spirit
Runners take care of their legs, athletes take care of their arms, musicians take care of their voices. Those who study and write ought to be at least that much concerned about their brains, and their hearts, their livers and their stomachs. They should even be more concerned, since these parts are more important, and more often used. A skilled craftsman takes great care of his instruments, a soldier his horse and weapons, a hunter his dogs and birds, a lyre-player his lyre, and so on.
Only the priests of the Muses, only the greatest hunters of good and truth, are so negligent and so unfortunate that they seem to neglect totally that instrument with which they are able to measure and comprehend the universe. The instrument is the spirit itself, which doctors define as some vapor of the blood, pure, subtle, warm, and clear. From the warmth of the heart, where it is produced from thinner blood, it flows to the brain, and there the spirit works hard for the functioning of the interior, rather than the exterior, senses. That is why the blood serves the spirit, the spirit serves the senses, and the senses, finally, serve reason.On the surface, many of these claims sound absurd. Nobody living in the 21st century would agree with a sentence that begins with, "Only the priests of the Muses". And yet, this writing somehow still evokes the truth.
Complete falsehoods interwoven with truths.
The mind is important to me. I just realized this two weeks ago when I immediately stopped smoking pot.
Earlier this evening I was sitting in Border's, where I go every evening to read. As I said, the mind is important to me. Without it, I couldn't read the New York Times, which gives me so much pleasure. And I couldn't write these essays for the Blog of Innocence, which challenge me.
It would be harder every night to write a chapter of my novel. But instead I settle for a task which is hard but not too hard. My mind is able to concentrate better when I'm not frustrated by the task.
I think when I die my ghost will stay here on earth, mainly to roam through Border's and wait for the cafe girls to fill up my coffee. The cafe girls will probably end up ignoring my ghost because they won't know it's me . . .
While I was reading Kate's journal in Border's, I had a palpable sense of her, like she was there beside me.
At the end of the first entry in the journal, I began to draw in the remaining space left on the page.
I drew for about an hour, completely engrossed in squiggly lines.
Doodling has a certain effect on me. I disappear into my doodles. I stop thinking. There is nothing . . .
During the day, I'm ceaselessly striving. I'm striving for a picture in my mind. Every morning I wake up and try to attain this ideal.
You can imagine I'm regularly disappointed. But I brush off the disappointment--I've learned to.
A number of days go by when I'm possessed by a flurry of intoxication over my perceived accomplishments. I feel as though I am really getting there, I'm nearing that perfect thing I want so bad.
It's a dream, a rush, a hallucination. I feel the pulse of achieving whatever it was in my head, whatever seemed so beautiful I had to chase after it.
There are moments when I am thrilled to be me. There are moments when I am giddy over nothing. Because everything feels so right.
The instrument is the spirit itself, which doctors define as some vapor of the blood, pure, subtle, warm, and clear. From the warmth of the heart, where it is produced from thinner blood, it flows to the brain, and there the spirit works hard for the functioning of the interior, rather than the exterior, senses. That is why the blood serves the spirit, the spirit serves the senses, and the senses, finally, serve reason.I don't even know what it means to be spiritual anymore. I used to meditate. But then I changed my habits, I acquired bad ones again, such as smoking and drinking.
Every day I am caught up in the picture in my mind. There is a larger picture, a landscape, like the city of Oz. But there are pieces too, fragments of the dream, and I try to grab these. I try to snatch them out of the air . . .
Melancholy . . .
Melancholy, that is, black bile, is something double: some of it is called natural by doctors, but another part touches on burning. This natural type is nothing other than a part of the blood getting thicker and dryer. The burning type is divided, however, into four kinds: for it is produced by combustion of either natural melancholy, pure blood, bile, or phlegm.Nonsense, isn't it? Or maybe, the most sense. It kind of sounds like when a psychiatrist explains a mental disorder by calling it a chemical imbalance in the brain.
What doctor can explain sadness or joy? We are a living cocktail of emotion all hours of the day.
Maybe the only doctor who can explain us is Ficino and his Book of Life . . .
I wouldn't take every word literally. Unless you know that words are metaphors to begin with; that nothing can be taken literally. We say, "dog". But what is a dog?
Those are my thoughts tonight. They are jumbled, irrelevant. I'm making a post on the Blog of Innocence every day. This is part of the picture in my mind.